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[TR] Tantalus- North Ridge 7/1/2004


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Climb: Tantalus-North Ridge


Date of Climb: 7/1/2004


Trip Report:

Yeah, I know, this TR is really old, and I apoligize for the poor photo quality (supermarket point & shoot). But it’s a good yarn and it might encourage some people to go climb Tantalus who wouldn’t otherwise want to mess around with canoes, locked cable cars or choppers – all you need is some fitness! It's a great 3 day trip and is technically quite easy (PD+ or AD-), but it's strenuous. Going in August or later would likely involve some big schrund and/or moat obstacles and would be slower...


Our plan was to take the Canada Day weekend (same as 4th of July) and go up the Sigurd Creek trail, climb over the shoulder of Pelion, camp somewhere, climb Tantalus via the North Ridge, and come back in three days. The Sigurd Creek trail is in good shape and takes you into the rugged and pristine Sigurd Creek valley.


High and Slippery!




A long and hot climb up to the 7000 ft pass on Pelion’s shoulder gave us our first view of Tantalus. Camp was on the ridge just left of DJ's nose (summit under cloud):




We enjoyed the view and rested before hurrying down to a fine campsite at the head of Mawby Creek. We found flat ground and good water, and enjoyed the sunset after 11 ½ hours approach.


Tantalus from Camp (right hand summit)





Zenith from Camp:







Next morning – up at 5am – and cloudy. The forecast said showers…..but we could see to the top of Tantalus…..let’s go! We followed the ridge south from Pelion, and soon had to deal with 300 feet of steep downclimbing on heather, moss, and shitty rock. We soon got past this section and followed the ridge as the clouds slowly dropped. A long trudge up easy snow slopes brought us to a 6300 ft col and the start of the north ridge proper.

At this point, one can climb directly up the rock (slow) or ascend snow to the western side of the ridge. We close the latter, since it was much faster, and we now had the tracks of a trio of other climbers to follow. These guys had flown in the evening before to the north col, and were about 2 hours ahead of us. 500 feet of 45 degree snow above a large bergschrund brought us to a sharp gap, from where we could see the western glacier below and nothing but whiteout above. Another long snow trudge up into the whiteout put us onto the crest of the ridge, at about the 7000 foot level. As it was now raining, we ducked behind a cornice to warm up and rest. At this point, things looked pretty gloomy, but, in about 30 seconds, it cleared off and a huge patch of blue sky appeared!


The ridge quickly clears:






We dashed out of our hollow under the cornice and got a glimpse of the ridge ahead. From this point on, we climbed on a long stretch of superb ridge, easy climbing but exposed. If it wasn’t whited out, the views must be awesome – straight down to the Rumbling Glacier to the left, and steeply down to the western glacier on the right.


Typical North Ridge scrambling (taken on way down):






Eventually, we dropped slightly and found ourselves at the head of the Rumbling Glacier. What now?

We couldn’t see much in the whiteout, and nothing looked very easy. We climbed steep rotten snow up to the rock and I headed up into the muck, but after 50 feet I gave up on the loose, greasy mess. We ignored the tracks of those ahead of us, who took a very poor-looking line, and we traversed out left to try and outflank the mess. A nice lower angled section appeared out of the mist, and although loose, it led to a steep snowslope. As I climbed the snowslope in the whiteout, it felt a little unusual – I realized just in time that it was not a snowslope, it was a big tilted cornice and that we must be on the summit ridge! We traversed the cornice, turned the corner, and found excellent class 3 scrambling on steep and solid rock. Derrick’s altimeter read 8400 feet, meaning that we must be close.


Big 'ol cornice




I topped out on the mini-face we were on, looked around the ridge, and there it was – the top! 50 feet of steep rock remained. It would be easy when dry, but the rain had turned the black lichen into ice. We got the rope out and I tested and then clipped an ancient fixed pin - Some delicate moves with big exposure brought me to a good belay, and when we topped out, we saw the actual summit peering through the mist at us, only 15 feet higher and across a small, sharp gap. We surprised the party of three, who we’d caught up to, and who were in the process of rapping down from the gap. There was a lot of loose rock on both sides of the gap, and it was raining again. I was very concerned that we’d knock rocks onto the three below us if we’d gone into the gap – the other group was concerned about this too, as they pointed out several large loose rocks that they said were unavoidable. Given the weather, the time, and the length of our approach, we were elated to get within 15 feet of the summit. We shook hands and rapped off.

We reversed the entire route, which went smoothly. The whiteout relented once or twice, enough for a few restricted views. The endless snow trudge from the way up was now a quick glissade. Climbing the 300 feet back up the heather and grass step in the ridge to get back to camp was tough, as all the rock was loose (the vegetation was most secure) and it had been raining for a while:






We finally threw our packs into the heather and crawled into the tent 15 hours after leaving.

The next day, we slept in and got a leisurely 11am start. On the descent back down to Sigurd Creek, the snow was a blessing and it didn’t take long to glissade the 3000 feet back down to the trail. The cool and cloudy weather was very welcome as we hiked out, and we met several day hikers along the trail, who asked if we had been “camping” and what snow pickets are used for - we politely answered their questions and had a nice walk out.

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